First Defence, a Juddmonte Farms homebred, is a late-developing 3-year-old who was not ready for this year’s Triple Crown events. But now trainer Bobby Frankel will give him a try in the fast lane, saddling the son of Unbridled's Song in Saturday’s $150,000 Long Branch Breeders’ Cup Stakes, Monmouth’s traditional prep for the Aug. 5 $1 million Haskell Invitational.
The Kentucky-bred colt has made just four lifetime starts, and his only race this year was an allowance victory at Belmont on May 26. He was entered in Belmont’s Dwyer Stakes, but scratched.
“We thought the Long Branch might be an easier spot for him,” Frankel said. “He came back from the last race very good. Now we’re hoping he runs back to that race.”
The Long Branch will be just the second try around two turns for First Defence, and Frankel expects him to be forwardly placed in the 1 1/16-mile event. Regular rider Javier Castellano will be in from New York to take the mount.
In to challenge First Defence will be John Rigattieri trainee Saratoga Lulaby, who comes off a trio of second-place finishes, including the two most recent in the Coranado’s Quest Stakes and the Spend A Buck Stakes at Monmouth. The son of Brahms, owned by Manfred Roos, has two wins and has finished second six times in 16 starts.
Also of interest is Michael Matz trainee Crusader Rabbit, who comes off a ½-length win in a June 22 allowance. The Northern Afleet gelding may have what it takes to step up to the next level.
Long Branch Breeders’ Cup Stakes (Race 9, Approximate post 4:42 p.m.), $150,000 for three-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles on the dirt.
1. Brush on By, Daniel Centeno, 117
2. Get Serious, Charles Lopez, 117
3. Keeneland Kid, Jose Velez Jr., 117
4. Crusader Rabbit, Eddie Castro, 117
5. Saratoga Lulaby, Joe Bravo, 117
6. First Defence, Javier Castellano, 117